City begins work to resolve drainage, odor problems before Friday’s Waterfront Concert

City of Bangor crews work at the Darling's Waterfront Pavilion trucking away some of the soil and putting in extra drainage. Officials say the smell was caused by the organic composition of the soil and sod reacting to the large amount of rain in recent weeks.
City of Bangor crews work at the Darling's Waterfront Pavilion trucking away some of the soil and putting in extra drainage. Officials say the smell was caused by the organic composition of the soil and sod reacting to the large amount of rain in recent weeks. Buy Photo
Posted July 30, 2013, at 2:56 p.m.
Last modified July 31, 2013, at 2:13 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Workers started digging and scraping Tuesday morning to resolve concerns about the unpleasant turf odor at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion during recent performances.

Tracy Willette, director of parks and recreation for the city, said Tuesday afternoon that the work would be complete before Friday’s Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley and Kix Brooks concert. Thursday’s Lost Trailers performance will be held in Waterfront Park, next to the pavilion.

When Waterfront Concerts relocated this spring in preparation for the 2013 season, a natural sod surface was installed in seating areas, but unusually heavy rainfall in June and July “overwhelmed the site,” according to Willette.

“You generally don’t plan for the 100-year flood,” Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray said Tuesday before speaking at a Bangor Rotary luncheon — but it happened this year. “Unfortunately, we gambled incorrectly,” Gray said

Maine saw one of the rainiest Junes in its recorded weather history, and the wet downpour has continued into July.

The “organic composition of the loam and sod,” once heavily saturated by water, created the odor, which was “unpleasant” but never “toxic or unsafe,” Willette said.

On Tuesday, crews from Gardner Construction, general contractor on the project, began scraping up the saturated sod, loam and dirt at the venue and trucking it away. They will lay down more drainage before laying down a new surface.

“We’re still trying to assess what we’ll have time for,” Willette said, saying he wasn’t sure if crews would be laying down new sod or a more temporary surface to get through this weekend’s concerts.

“We certainly understand the concerns patrons have had,” Willette said. “Working with the staff at Waterfront Concerts, we hope those concerns have been addressed and we now will be working this week to correct that problem.”

The city did not reveal Tuesday what the expected repair costs might be, despite requests.

The repairs would be funded through a turf management fund set up in the agreement between the city and Waterfront Concerts. The city, which owns the venue, receives a $1-per-ticket fee that essentially serves as rent for the site and another 25 cents per ticket that goes into the turf management fund.

Messages asking how much is in that fund were not answered by press time.

The agreement also states that Waterfront Concerts holds responsibility for the stage, fences, portable toilets and other temporary buildings at the site, as well as cleanup.

When the concert series kicked off its season with Motley Crue and Hinder in May, its stage was dramatically scaled up, able to handle heavier loads of sound equipment, lighting and visual displays. The venue shifted to face east, toward downtown, and featured a 4 percent grade in the front seating area and an 8 percent grade in the general admission or lawn area, providing a better view for patrons.

Gray has said the renovations cost millions of dollars, with the city pitching in about $700,000.

The changes have made the Darling’s Waterfront Pavillion an attractive destination for some of the biggest names in music, Gray told Bangor Rotarians on Tuesday.

“The new venue has great potential as we move forward,” Gray said.

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